Thermal Camera Under $2,000?

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jun 05, 2012

While Axis and FLIR have loudly proclaimed steep drops in thermal network camera pricing, their cameras are still at least $3,000 and most are far more expensive. Now, a newer entrant to the security market, DRS Technologies, has radically slashed pricing, offering similar cameras for less than $2,000. In this note, we examine who this company is, whether they are for real and what catches or limitations you may face.

[UPDATE: See DRS thermal test results.]

Overview

Last year, DRS released a network thermal camera line called WatchMaster IP Elite which we reviewed at that time.

The sub $2,000 pricing is for that existing line, with no functional changes in the product offering.

DRS has been promoting this in trade magazines with the following excerpted ad:

1999

An interesting question is how DRS can drop their prices so steeply on an existing product. DRS says that since they manufacturer their own components, they have more price control than competiors using OEMs and more opportunity for economies of scale. However, given the depth of the drop, we believe that DRS must also be accepting lower margins to drive market share growth.

Specs, Pricing, and Availability

The key features of the WatchMaster IP Elite include:

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

  • Uncooled 320x240 thermal imager, H.264 and MJPEG streaming up 30 FPS, or 9 FPS for export markets
  • 40º, 16º, and 9º FOV options
  • ONVIF compliant
  • PoE-powered, IP66 enclosure
  • No analytics on-board

It is available now, starting at $1,999 USD MSRP with a 40º lens. Given approximate discounts (between traditional security dealer discounts and lighter IT-type discounts), street price may be slightly lower. DRS sells through integrators only, with no direct sales nor distribution.

Potential Considerations

Given DRS' unknown brand in surveillance, and extremely aggressive pricing, users should consider the following potential areas of concern:

  • DRS as a company: DRS is new to the commercial security space, only entering about 2-3 years ago. However, DRS has significant history in the defense sector, founded in 1968, lessening the impact of the commercial division's relatively recent founding.
  • 3rd Party integration: ONVIF is the only integration method supported, which many integrators may see as a problem. DRS says they are working with many VMS providers to develop direct integrations, though you would need to check with them to see the status and timetable for your preferred one.
  • Technical Support: Tech support is an integrator concern with any new entrant. DRS reports their tech support is available 5 days/60 hours per week.
  • Turn around time: DRS tells us that most orders are shipped within 24 hours, but longer lead times may occur for larger orders.

Competitive Comparison

The WatchMaster IP Elite is substantially less expensive than key IP thermal competitors, such as Axis and FLIR. Given $2,000 USD as an approximate street price, it compares as follows:

Given these prices, the WatchMaster is less than half the price of competitors.

No Video Analytics: Unlike Axis, however, DRS' cameras are not capable of running analytics on-board, only motion detection. This is an important limitation as analytics are often run with thermal cameras. While DRS can support analytics, it needs to be done on the server side, increasing cost and complexity.

Comparison to Visible Cameras

Instead of thermal, IR illumination is often used with visible light cameras. There are two options in this case:

  • Built-in IR: The first option is using cameras with built-in IR illuminators. This provides megapixel resolution and color during the day, unlike most thermal cameras which are limited to 320 x 240 resolution Built-in IR is generally limited to 50-60' at most, whereas thermal cameras often have detection ranges in the hundreds of feet. Integrated IR cameras are typically priced well below even the WatchMaster, however, selling for $1,000 or less.
  • Long-range external illuminator: The second option is using a long-range illuminators, which may reach ranges close to the detection limits of thermal cameras. However, these illuminators alone often sell for over $1,000 each, and must be separately installed and integrated with the IP camera. Further, high-powered IR also causes overexposure in the near field, making nighttime identification difficult.

No matter which form of IR is used, thermal cameras have an advantage in fog or inclement weather, as well, as they are better able to ignore these effects.

However, thermal cameras means giving up high resolution daytime color images, a major barrier for many users. One could complement these lower cost thermal cameras with a standard megapixel cameras at a modest increase in cost to rectify this shortcoming.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Dahua Repositionable IR Multi-Imager Camera Tested on Apr 16, 2019
Dahua has released their first repositionable multi-imager camera, the Multi-Flex 4x2MP, claiming integrated IR, true WDR, and flexible...
Axis Supports HD Analog on Apr 15, 2019
In 2017, Axis declared 'Everything is IP': Now, in 2019, Axis has released support for HD analog, with their new encoders.  Why the change?...
ISC West 2019 Report on Apr 12, 2019
The IPVM team has finished at the Sands looking at what companies are offering and how they are changing their positioning. See below for 50+...
Brinks Home Security / ASCMA Risks Bankruptcy on Apr 08, 2019
ASCMA, aka MONI, aka Brinks Home Security has issued a warning in their most recent financials that they risk bankruptcy. In this note, based on...
Spring 2019 50+ New Products Directory on Apr 08, 2019
We are compiling a list of new products for Spring 2019 and have over 50 already. Contrast to Fall 2018 New Products Directory and Spring 2018...
Startup iryx Launches, Led by Ex-Arecont and FLIR Executives on Apr 04, 2019
Suddenly, the video surveillance industry is witnessing a new wave of startups. Now launching is iryx, a startup led by veterans of 2 of the...
Startup Spectral Edge RGB+IR Claims "Unique Low Light Performance Tech" on Apr 03, 2019
This UK startup, born out of university research, is boldly proclaiming that they deliver "Unique low light performance tech for video surveillance...
Axis 5MP P Vs Q Camera Shootout (P3227-LVE vs Q3517-LVE) on Apr 02, 2019
While Axis' Q3517-LVE tested well, it is one of Axis' most expensive dome cameras, over $1,000 USD. Because of this, members asked us how it...
UTC Interlogix Series 6 Tested on Mar 25, 2019
UTC Interlogix has long been deceptively OEMing Hikvision as our 2017 results show. Now, Interlogix is back with their newest IP camera series,...
Genetec Security Center 5.8 Tested on Mar 19, 2019
Genetec has released Version 5.8. This comes after a wait of more than a year that caused frustrations for many Genetec partners. Our previous...

Most Recent Industry Reports

H.265 Usage Statistics on Apr 19, 2019
H.265 has been available in IP cameras for more than 5 years and, in the past few years, the number of manufacturers supporting this codec has...
ACRE Acquires RS2, Explains Acquisition Strategy on Apr 19, 2019
ACRE continues to buy, now acquiring RS2, just 5 months after buying Open Options. One is a small access control manufacturer from Texas, the...
Access Control Course Spring 2019 - Last Chance on Apr 19, 2019
Register for the Spring Access Control Course. IPVM offers the most comprehensive access control course in the industry. Unlike manufacturer...
Riser vs Plenum Cabling Explained on Apr 18, 2019
You could be spending twice as much for cable as you need. The difference between 'plenum' rated cable and 'riser' rated cable is subtle, but the...
Verint Victimized By Ransomware on Apr 18, 2019
Verint, which is best known in the physical security industry for video surveillance but has built a sizeable cybersecurity business as well, was...
Milestone Drops IFSEC on Apr 18, 2019
Milestone has dropped out of Europe's largest annual security trade show (IFSEC 2019), telling IPVM that they "have found that IFSEC in EMEA no...
The Fastest Growing Video Surveillance Sales Organization Ever - Verkada on Apr 17, 2019
Verkada has the fastest growing video surveillance sales organization ever. In less than 2 years, they already have more salespeople in the US...
Door Operators Access Control Tutorial on Apr 17, 2019
Doors equipped with door operators, specialty devices that automate opening and closing, tend to be quite complex. The mechanisms needed to...
Securadyne CEO: IPVM 'Entertaining For An Ignorant Few' on Apr 16, 2019
Securadyne's CEO Carey Boethel is unhappy with IPVM's report - Failed Integrator Rollup, Securadyne Sells to Guard Giant Allied. Indeed, he...
Dahua Repositionable IR Multi-Imager Camera Tested on Apr 16, 2019
Dahua has released their first repositionable multi-imager camera, the Multi-Flex 4x2MP, claiming integrated IR, true WDR, and flexible...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact